Union Station: National ICE Council will separate from American Federation of Government Employees

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National ICE Council will separate from American Federation of Government Employees

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) announced on July 12 that it had filed paperwork with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) to relinquish its representational interest in AFGE Council 118, the National ICE Council, which represents U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees. 

About the separation 

According to The Washington Times‘ Stephen Dinan, the National ICE Council filed a complaint seeking financial independence from AFGE and the AFL-CIO with the Department of Labor in June. Dinan wrote, “The council says it cannot get adequate representation from the two organizations, which ‘foster hate and prejudice’ against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and have backed political candidates who call for defunding ICE[.] … The council accuses the two labor groups of holding ICE employees captive. It says the parent unions, wanting to garner ‘partisan political favor’ from the administration, refuse to let the employees manage their own affairs but won’t advocate for them.”

According to Dinan, “The complaint ask[ed] the Labor Department, which oversees labor relations, to impose a full financial audit of the two parent unions, to grant financial independence to the council, and to ensure ‘protections’ from retaliation by the AFGE or AFL-CIO.” 

National ICE Council President Chris Crane said, “I am not aware of any other union that openly campaigns to have the jobs of its members eliminated. … When AFGE supports electing abolish-ICE politicians to positions of power and influence, that’s exactly what it’s doing.” 

On July 12, AFGE announced it had “begun the process to separate a unit of thousands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from the parent union, AFGE, by filing paperwork with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) disclaiming interest in the unit. … Under the Federal Labor Relations Act, unions can volunteer to give up a unit of workers they previously represented by filing a disclaimer of interest in the bargaining unit. The disclaimer is subject to a routine investigation and approval by the FLRA.” 

According to the FLRA’s Representation Case Handling Manual, “Any labor organization holding exclusive recognition for a unit of employees may disclaim any representational interest in those employees at any time.” 

AFGE National President Everett Kelley stated, “It is clear that the AFGE Council 118 remains steadfast in their desire to no longer be a part of AFGE or the broader labor movement. … As a result, we have made the difficult decision to disclaim interest in this unit. While we had hoped to avoid this outcome, today’s action begins the process of granting Council 118’s request.”

According to Government Executive’s Erich Wagner, “An AFGE official [said] staff on the national level [had] engaged in ‘multiple discussions’ with the ICE council … to convince them to remain part of the union but were unsuccessful.”

What happens next

According to Wagner, “Once the process is complete, the ICE council would not automatically become independent. Instead, the bargaining unit itself is disbanded, and all collective bargaining agreements between AFGE Council 118 and the agency are voided. … [E]mployees at the agency would have to conduct an entirely new organization drive, whether it be independently or in coordination with another federal employee union. Following a new bargaining unit designation and election overseen by the FLRA, the newly reconstituted union would then have to undergo the lengthy process of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with ICE management from scratch.”

The National ICE Council says it represents “approximately 7,600 Officers, Agents and employees who work for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement throughout the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, The Virgin Islands, Guam, and Saipan.”

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